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Concerns about the Crossing

Posted by on February 1st, 2007 at 2:19 pm

Columbia River Crossing Forum
[Transportation activist and
blogger Chris Smith questions
the Crossing at a
panel discussion on 1/4/07.]

Last night at my neighborhood meeting I heard two strange presentations. They both had to do with billion dollar mega-projects that are intended to increase capacity on Interstate 5 and thereby decrease congestion.

As I listened I couldn’t help but feel like I was in some sort of surreal nightmare.

I thought everyone knew that increasing highway capacity only encourages more use of motor vehicles while doing nothing to get to the root cause of the problems.

I thought we’d evolved beyond thinking we can build our way out of our addiction to oil and automobiles. I thought widening freeways and bridges was something planners looked back on in textbooks as what not to do.

Apparently I’m not up with the times, because ODOT’s I-5 Widening and the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) projects are both moving full steam ahead. I’m no expert on either of these, but something just doesn’t feel right.

A few weeks ago, I attended a panel discussion on the CRC and heard a surprising amount of concern and questioning about the project from an esteemed panel of experts. Two of those panel members recently penned a provocative editorial in the Oregonian that I encourage you to read.

At this point CRC project staff want to move forward with only one option; to build an immense new bridge that will have 10-12 lanes of auto traffic. The cost estimates (which they haven’t finalized) are a staggering $2 billion.

Surely we can think of more innovative, inexpensive and sustainable solutions to decrease congestion?

At that panel discussion earlier this month, I met 72 year-old veteran transportation activist Jim Howell.

In a recent Oregonian article, Ron Buel, a consummate insider, businessman, and founder of the Willamette Week said,

“I don’t think you can name more than half a dozen people who have had more impact on the face of the Portland metro area than Jim Howell.”

So when Jim talks, I listen. He told me he has reservations about the way the CRC staff are moving forward and that it’s reminiscent of another mega-project that never saw the light of day.

Then Jim showed me this old report from the infamous Mt. Hood Freeway Project.

[The note says, "This mega freeway project was never built because of ODOT's hubris. Will the $2 billion freeway bridge over the Columbia River meet the same fate for the same reason?"]

Jim says the folks behind the Mt. Hood Freeway had other options for their mega-project besides barreling straight into residential Division Street, but they chose to ignore them. He thinks their insistence on this one (unpopular) option is what led to the demise of the whole project.

Consequently (and thankfully) the defeat of the Mt. Hood Freeway led to millions of dollars being spent on many small, more sensible transportation projects (which included bicycle, pedestrian, and light rail projects).

Maybe I’m missing something, but part of me would love to see the Columbia River Crossing project see the same fate.

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Comments
  • enginerd February 1, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    The Delta Park project makes some sense. In the subject area, I-5 goes from 3 lanes to 3 and back to 3. The main purpose of the project is to maintain 3 lanes throughout. The motivation behind it is freight mobility, the Port and industrial users in the area. The project went through a very public and open process to arrive at the solution that is moving forward.

    As proposed, the CRC alternative doesn’t make sense. The CRC team (including WSDOT, ODOT and the consultants) has developed such a narrow purpose and need for the project that none of the initial alternatives cut it. I’m amazed that the Feds would accept an EIS on such a major project as the CRC with a no-build and one alternative. Of course, CRC says there’s two alternatives because they’ll look at LRT and BRT as transit options. Whoop-dee-doo.

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  • joe adamski February 1, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    my recollection of the demise of Mt Hood Freeway was Portland neighbors bridled at the idea that their neighborhoods would be decimated to facilitate faster commutes to Gresham.

    Vancouver is pretty much in that suburban auto-centric mode. Sprawl is encouraged, and everything is ‘drive thru’. Not many Vancouver neighborhoods that fit the bill of walkable or bikeable.

    Personally,I favor keeping I-5 as it is. Build a freight bridge connecting Port of Portland and Vancouver,including a new railroad bridge(which is due for replacement already..) and light rail. Let tolls pay for the lions share of it.Business is as hamstrung by congestion as everyone,but they are paying wages to have a driver idling in traffic on I-5 at rush hour. Getting freight off I-5 would benefit everyone. Getting freight a fast efficient route paid by tolls would still put them ahead of the game.

    And if Vancouver cant get past the 70s in visioning their city.. oh well.

    Decimating MY neighborhood to facilitate a faster commute to Vancouver..?

    fahgettaboudit!

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  • nuovorecord February 1, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    enginerd meant 3 lanes narrowing to 2 then back to 3.

    Actually, the proposed project is EXACTLY what the feds want. Washington as well. The Oregon side – at least Portland and Metro – has a different vision for the project. Why should we pay for a bridge to make it easier for Vancouverites to drive to Portland and environs, when doing so runs counter to every bit of planning we’ve done for the past 35 years or so?

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  • andy February 1, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Why not make the project contigent on also connecting the yellow max line to vancouver? Can’t have one bridge without another… or better yet, build ‘em both at the same time.

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  • Jeff February 1, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    This a letter I wrote to the Oregonian about 2 weeks ago, (that wasn’t published)
    I-5 Bridge
    I feel sorry for the I-5 bridge commuters, but not enough to spend 2 billion dollars to fix their choices. People moved to SW Washington for a multitude of reasons, lower property taxes, lower house prices, less crime, better schools, whatever. But apparently there are not enough jobs over there, so they need to drive back 5 days a week. I decided to stay in Portland and pay the high property taxes, support the schools (not abandon them) and not spend my life stuck in traffic. Now they want a new bridge to make their lifestyle choices, my problem, like paying for a new bridge. I want the whole cost of the bridge project explained. If they widen the bridge and not I-5 through Delta Park, they’re just moving the benzene cloud my way. Like the Convention Center remodel, they now claim to need a big hotel to support the expansion. They will need to widen I-5 to support all the new cars that can get over the bridge faster. Mass transit will never be as convenient & fast as a personnel car, but oil wars & benzene clouds are expensive too. We brought Max to your door Vancouver, so stop waffling around like Seattle, it’s time you made a positive decision, connect to Max and forget about your $2billion bridge dream.
    JEFF

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  • K February 1, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    I don’t know that the residents of Vancouver most physically affected by freeway widening would be supportive of the measure either. I-5 is sandwiched snuggly between downtown Vancouver (which is admittedly dead but very residential) and some of the older neighborhoods to the east both of which have very vocal opinions on I-5 expansion. Turning I-5 into a toll bridge while simultaneously bringing light rail over the river would be more of an actual solution to the problem.

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  • Gerri February 1, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Andy,

    I get the feeling that the bone tossed our way WILL be the extension of the yellow line to Vancouver. And the same may be true of bike and ped lanes – Sam Adams and his staff are already very excited about a world-class bike crossing on the new bridge, and they’re starting to talk about design.

    But extension of the MAX line and a fancy bike path will not make a bad plan better.

    Let’s not get distracted by frippery like bike paths and the MAX.

    Gerri

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  • keith February 1, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    I think the predictable response will be that people want more motor vehicles, and money should be spent on what most use. Of course many realize there is no end to that path until the globe is thoroughly paved.

    What most interested me at the CRC forum a few weeks ago was a question posed by Mr. Cortright, the economist on the panel. Of all the ways Portland could spend $2B – with the singular goal of improving our lives – would 4 more lanes on 1 mile of highway be our top choice?

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  • gabrielamadeus February 1, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Awhile back I read about light rail extending into vancouver. As it turns out, it makes more sense for commuters to take trimet busses into portland’s city center because it is much quicker. The biggest problem with portland’s light rail is that there are too many stops, rendering it’s speed + capacity inefficient. Trimet should consider removing some stops, especially downtown, or add “express” lines from vancouver and other key areas.

    Then we can blow up the dams on the columbia, which in turn will wash out all the car bridges!

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  • mykle February 1, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    fyi, readers who want to follow this more closely should check out the Portland Transport blog, which has been tracking the CRC controversy for quite some time.

    http://portlandtransport.com/

    it’s kind of nerdy, but i read it every day and i still have a girlfriend. =) there’s also a feisty group of comment-posters who together represent the whole spectrum of public opinion about the CRC.

    -m-

    (p.s. i receive no googlebucks for this endorsement. really!)

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  • bruce February 1, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Here’s a link to an editorial from the NY Times 1/29/07

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  • adventure! February 1, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    That 1-80N (Mt. Hood Freeway) report is a fascinating artifact. It was prepared by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill by the Highway Department in the early seventies (’72?) to make the freeway more “sexy” with bus stations, bike paths, and the like. Go down to Central Library and check it out of the Reference collection.

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  • nobody ride MtB in PDX February 1, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    There is a critical difference between the CRC and the Mt. Hood Freeway. The I-5 bridge is primarily about freight (and how much you pay for it), not commute time.
    The Mt. Hood Freeway would have demo’d a swath of SE Portland not only to get commuters home to Gresham faster, but also to bring Greshamites downtown faster so they could buy lots of goodies. Good for city coffers, good for traffic engineers (its was drawn up by Robert Moses, the patron saint of bulldozer operators), bad if you happen to live on, or downwind of, Division. As the name suggests, the I-80 would have gotten you as far as Mt. Hood (not even).
    As much as we’d like to blame it on the visionary voting habits of our neighbor to the north, CRC is only partly about shortening commutes to the ‘couv. I-5 stretches from Mexico (where it’s cheap to make stuff) to Canada (where it’s not). Vancouverites clog the bridge during peak hours, but during the other 24 hours I-5 is mostly thru- traffic (some cars but primarily commercial vehicles- trucks). Sorry, I don’t have the figures. A large volume of freight also navigates the river, necessitating the drawbridge.
    Not to mention, the I-5 bridge doesn’t meet current safety standards (merge lanes + bike facilities) or seismic standards (could happen).
    So, before you calculate how many cases of beer $2 Billion buys (or how much a bike-only tunnel through the West Hills would cost)- realize that this project has relatively little to do with you or the ‘couv. It’s about how much your Juan Valdez coffee costs (yes, I know, you drink Stumptown with a splash non-GMO certified organic Mexico-free soy milk from beans grown by your hippie aunt in Parkdale).

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  • Tbird February 1, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    Jonathon, your right. We can’t build our way out of oil addiction. So, I would like to propose that we, as the bike community, begin to insist that the community/city begin taking things away from the autos and giving them to alternative transport users, such as cyclists. A prime example would be that we remove parking from any city street that has a bike lane/ or bike route. Give the parking space over to a ‘dutch style’ bike lane, partitioned from the auto traffic and designated for bike use only.
    This is really the best way to get the masses on their bike and out of the car.

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  • revphil February 1, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Similar to the emotions raised by mentioning a Sales Tax, many Oregonians are wary of tolls, and politicians fear loosing the $$ that comes across the river. It really bugs me to feel like we are held captive by the spending habits of people who don’t live here.

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the excellent movie by Clarence Eckerson Jr about the failed Mt. Hood Freeway. The same developer, Moses, put a similar freeway in Brooklyn, New York and you can see how pleasant it is to live nearby the BQE.

    http://www.nycsr.org/nyc/video-view.php?id=24

    Any ideas as how to appease people who are not concerned with the long term?

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Jonathan

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  • Caoimhin February 1, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    The plan hasn’t factored in peak oil (see http://www.energybulletin.net/primer.php for a primer), which will very likely happen within the next 5-10 years. Peak oil will result in a radical reduction in traffic. We will be stuck paying off an oversized, underused bridge for the next 50 years. What an boondoggle!

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  • Macaroni February 2, 2007 at 12:36 am

    And today in New York City you can see a show/retrospective celebrating Robert Moses’ accomplishments and “improvements” in the city. Funny that a biographer (Caro) who spoke lowly of him was not invited to present or lecture.

    Oh, back to the CRC. Yes it’s always about commerce isn’t it?

    But Vanlosers should pay a price for taking an Oregonian’s job, polluting the city and wearing out the infrastructure. If they’re dull-minded enough to sit in traffic for hours, charge them a toll that reflects the damage they inflict. But 10 lanes! I had no idea. That is disgusting!

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  • Shawn Kielty February 2, 2007 at 1:04 am

    Wow … more misguided transportation policy. I firmly believe that a moderate policy is more effective. A transportation policy that ties rail transport to road building to human powered transport is beneficial to everyone.

    For example — a policy that required any road building to include a railway, and any rail right of way to include human powered pathways would encourage the kind of infrastructure that would allow us to slip out of our dependence on oil, without raising the hackles of every one. It is a graceful solution.

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  • jj February 2, 2007 at 1:14 am

    Someone once referred to the complex phenomena of having working-class, working-poor, and unemployed peoples living in high pollution environments (such as I-5 corridor) as environmental-racism and environmental-classicism due to the related adverse health factors.

    Above average asthma rates for one.

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  • jj February 2, 2007 at 1:16 am

    classicism = classism

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  • adam February 2, 2007 at 5:33 am

    wow – hard to know what to say – at the very least, I would like to see TOLLS on both I-5 and 205. It would be an easy way to raise revenue.

    How does ODOT come to these stellar conclusions about how to spend money? I hate to think of all the waste that the various feasibility studies, et al cost. From the outside, it seems like another tramlike public process with no accounting to the public – yawwwwnnn.

    Tbird – your idea is great – who should we talk to and how can we advance the no parking on bike route idea? that is a great idea.

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  • Pearcy February 2, 2007 at 5:40 am

    Is there a letter writing campaign that would help stop this madness? I am getting up to speed on the topic and would like to know what proactive steps can be taken to voice our concerns about the projects.

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  • Pearcy February 2, 2007 at 5:53 am

    I found one venue for anyone who want’s to provide feedback about the Columbia River Crossing project. The link below will take you an online form for comments.
    http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org/ContactUs.aspx

    Meeting Information:
    http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org/getInvolved/OpenHouse.aspx

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  • Val A Lindsay II February 2, 2007 at 8:06 am

    I don’t understand beuracracies. They don’t seem to conform to any form of logic at all. Let’s say you add a lane to a highway; Not only do you have to build it, you have to maintain it. The more lanes, the more likely one lane will have to be maintained in any given amount of time (more often than not), so you get a bottleneck. And of course, this makes traffic worse.

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  • Richard S February 2, 2007 at 8:11 am

    Caoimhin (post 16),
    your comment about peak oil, and its effects on traffic volumes in the future is right on. However, that’s not all bad. Once traffic on these freeways gets below a certain level, we can take lanes, and turn them into bike freeways.

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  • nuovorecord February 2, 2007 at 8:21 am

    re: freight mobility in the CRC area. Actually, freight is a pretty small percentage of the traffic over the river. If not for the commute traffic, there would be plenty of capacity for freight movement. The freight argument is a smokescreen. Building a new bridge will do nothing to improve congestion; it will on perpetuate the existing condition – homes in Vancouver, jobs in Portland. Vancouver needs to create jobs, not build a bridge.

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  • bikieboy February 2, 2007 at 9:20 am

    $2 billion bridge/freeway project divided by 2 million Portland metro area equals a cost of $1,000 per person. Give me my thousand and I’ll sign a binding pledge never to drive over the I-5 bridge again. For an extra $500 i’ll throw in the I-205 bridge.

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  • Richard S February 2, 2007 at 9:31 am

    I can understand and appreciate the need to cater for moving freight around Portland. We are, after all, a major west coast port. However, it looks as though the traffic problems are mostly caused by commuters. In that case, I don’t see that the new bridge and piece of freeway will help at all. Unless access into Portland, and the close in suburbs is improved, then all that will happen is that this freeway will simply provide more parking during peak periods. You still won’t be able to get a truck through, and you won’t have solved this problem.

    Of course, there is still the problems with the current I5 setup – old, not earthquake compliant, a drawbridge on a freeway. All these have to be fixed.

    I’d propose the following:
    1. We replace the current I 5 bridge with a 8 lane version that’s up to code. (It’s be nice is it was put in a tunnel, but that’s just fantasy)
    2. Dedicate one lane in each direction to mass transit. That’s buses only – not car pool. You’d probably need that additional lane right into Portland. That would require more transit infrastructure in Clark County – more capacity for parking etc. Clark County is mostly too spread out for effective transit, but you could make the trip into Portland better.
    3. Build a truck only river crossing. This could be combined with the railway bridge replacement. What trucks do once they cross the river is still an issue. You’d also have to improve access to I84, and hwy14 has become just part of the mess.
    4. Ensure that bike and peds are well taken care of. While there aren’t a lot of us commuting across the Columbia, every bit makes a difference. I believe that this will become critical in 2 years – when a sizable segment of the working population will not be able to afford to drive. (see the peak oil discussion)

    All this would cost more ( I think) than what they’re proposing, but at least it’ll work better. Here’s what you get.
    1. Fewer cars in Portland – which means less parking required, fewer freeway lanes, less pollution (for those of us filling our lungs with this stuff)
    2. The freight mobility problem can be partly solved independently to the other traffic problems. This will also separate out trucks and cars to a certain extent – so possibly reducing accidents.
    3. Better human power infrastructure – so we might walk and bike more. This will become more critical as the price of driving starts to become beyond the reach of more lower income people.

    I’m not sure what to say about light rail. I like the concept, and it’s mostly immune to traffic jams, but it’s so sloooow, and expensive to build.

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  • wayne February 2, 2007 at 9:31 am

    This project will soak up federal and state transportation dollars for years to come even if tolls partially pay for it.
    And when they’re finished with their “super bridge” they’ll want to widen 1-5. Figure on another couple of billion for that. It’s a lot of money to be spent on something that flies completely in the face of everything the Portland Metro area has been trying to do with transportation and land use planning.

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  • Tbird February 2, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Hey Adam (post 21),
    I’ll start a thread on the general forum titled ” no parking” let’s chat about it, or you can pm me from there. I really think this type of idea would help mobilize the ” interested but concerned” folks who may be on the fence about riding to work or as regular means of getting around.
    tbird

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  • Richard S February 2, 2007 at 9:46 am

    Errata: In item 4 of my proposal above, it should read 20 years, not two. We’ll still be driving gas guzzling SUVs in two years!

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  • Caoimhin February 2, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Richard S (post 25): I agree. The current I-5 bridge could very well become a major bike crossing, and much sooner than most think. $300/barrel oil is coming soon. See the recent Bloomberg interview with Matt Simmons at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2239 in which he concludes that oil has now peaked. (Princeton Professor Ken Deffeyes also agrees). Peak Oil and the twin issue of Climate Change are discussed at http://www.energybulletin.net/24529.html . The plan for a new bridge is competely assinine. I believe the way to reign in the transportation planners is to go over their heads to our elected officials at Metro, Portland City Hall, and in Salem. The planners really won’t listen, as their mission is to build and expand the highway transportation system. We now need leaders with a clear vision of the major changes that are before us. I could post links ad infinitum/ad nauseum, but I refrain by posting just one more: that of Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder’s white paper on the coming oil crisis at http://www.metro-region.org/article.cfm?ArticleID=18951 . (Aside: for those who use natural gas, take a look at the graph showing North America’s supply on page 5 of the newswletter at http://www.peakoil.ie/newsletter/en/pdf/Newsletter72.pdf ). Life as we know it is rapidly changing.

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  • Caoimhin February 2, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    I forgot to mention the recent report issued by the Portland Peak Oil Task Force which can be found at http://www.portlandonline.com/osd/index.cfm?c=42894 . We cannot afford to spend $billions on a new bridge.

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  • PFin February 2, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Richard S,

    Bike freeways indeed! Hopefully, however, before this happens we will have a chance to engineer a bicycle-specific structure. Wind protection, elevation-controlled traffic controls, elevation crossfading (downhill both ways), even wind-powered wind assist… I know this is thinking big at this point, but the sooner we start discussing these types of projects in earnest, the sooner talking heads will shut up and listen.

    Viva la terra!

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  • nik February 3, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Can someone outline the concrete steps we could all take to prevent the continued and planning and creation of this poorly designed bridge?

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  • janis February 3, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    perhaps i missed the part where they looked at the health problems all those vehicles would cause the people that live near the freeway…i wonder how much child asthma has increased in the past few years with the increase of auto traffic?

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  • Jerrod February 3, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    Yet another example of how humans are like sheep being led to the slaughter. It doesn’t matter how much education is at our finger tips (please see the film “An Inconvenient Truth,” we only care about our comfort here and now

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  • Matt Picio February 3, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    The option I *don’t* hear mentioned here is expanding rail capacity. Truck freight from Mexico to Canada makes no sense. Hell, truck freight from San Francisco to Portland makes no sense. I’d much rather see the federal money for the I-5 expansion used to lay another rail line alongside the current UP mainline through Oregon from Vancouver to Klamath Falls. Rail is MUCH more efficient than trucks, and that money could be used to grade-separate the remaining at-grade rail crossings so that rail freight service would become faster and more efficient.

    As Peak Oil becomes more of a factor, we’re going to need those trains. BTW, Deffeyes (mentioned in post #32) isn’t just a Princeton professor, he formerly worked with Marion King Hubbert at Shell in the 1960′s, and is a career petroleum geologist. So, he’s not just another talking head.

    A 10-lane bridge is a nightmare, guaranteed to cost a large fortune to build and a small fortune to maintain. I’ve also heard talk (I think it was mentioned here, in fact) that the funds the feds use to pay for many of these projects are drying up. Who’s going to pay for the bridge when that happens?

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  • Matt Picio February 3, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Janis – I agree, and I find it interesting that the Oregonian just ran a story about the large increase in cancer rates for 20-39 year-olds. I’m now 38, and I was exposed when growing up to lead paint, PBB, Dioxins, and all kinds of chemicals that we used in the late 60s and early 70s. Since that time, we’ve added preservatives to everything, pesticides and fertilizers to all crops, and built radio towers of all kinds everywhere. (There are 10-20x as many RF towers as there were in 1980)

    My generation (those born 1960-1980) is the biggest health experiment for long-term exposure to toxins ever established. Those of you born after 1980 are generation 2 of the “experiment” – you’ve been exposed to all the same things, but more so.

    I grew up in Detroit – I started out VERY pro-car. I’m not anymore, and since moving to Portland that trend has accelerated. My birthplace has 8-lane freeways EVERYWHERE. We really so do not need those here.

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  • Brad February 5, 2007 at 8:32 am

    What if it became a 10 lane tunnel under the Columbia with a dedicated bike tram above the water? Then we could build an artificial island in the river and build loft condos on it that have a great view but would also cause lots of overpriced boutiques and overrated restaurants with vaguely foreign sounding two syllable names to sprout nearby. That would be SOOOOO Portland! I’m going to form a visioning committee today!

    Seriously, use the billions to build an I-5 corridor rapid rail system (75+ MPH)from Vancouver with stops at Rose Quarter (connects to Tri-Met), Wilsonville (connects with proposed W’Ville – Beaverton transit train), and Salem. Turn the existing I-5 into a toll road along that corridor for private autos with peak hours premium pricing. Create full length HOV lanes and give those lane users a price break (define HOV as 3 or more in vehicle) and lay a $1000 fine on violators using the lane without the minimum passenger load. Commercial rigs will be exempt from or enjoy reduced tolls.

    No harm to commerce and penalties for wasteful gasoline usage. What’s not to like?

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  • Elly February 5, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Want to stop the new I-5 bridge? Or just want to learn more? Here is a link to the project’s “events” page.

    http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org/eventCalendar.aspx

    It looks like the most recent public open houses have passed (and were not super-accessible by bicycle, anyway), but there are a few community events coming up in Portland where project representatives will be.

    The concerns voiced here are valid — this project is being pushed through without the public being given alternatives. It will tie up the region’s transportation funding for years, dump much more traffic in the Portland area along with the incumbent problems, and set a precedent for urban planning.

    We need to make our concerns about massive new freeway projects widely known, and start talking about real solutions to traffic problems.

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  • Elly February 5, 2007 at 10:26 am

    PS
    Chris Smith has done a really good job covering this issue and soliciting feedback over on http://portlandtransport.com

    He’s still collecting comments on a dozen questions (see his entries titled CRC question # 1, etc) and will submit them to the project team in a few days — so get your say in now!

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  • Lenny Anderson February 5, 2007 at 11:17 am

    The Arterial Bridge option has been haunting the bi-state deliberations on the Columbia River crossing for some time. I was a member of the Governors’ I-5 Task Force…the so called “Trade Partnership”… (I cast the lone dissenting vote on the final report), and recall the night about mid way through our several years long discussion when someone, maybe it was me, suggested that what we really need across the River is a “Broadway Bridge.” This came in the wake of staff’s report that somewhere around a third of Interstate Bridge traffic was “local.”

    From my own perspective as resident of the eastside of Portland who crosses the Willamette River often, this was an “Ah Ha” moment, and it appeared that many colleagues on the Task Force shared this reaction. I cross the Willamette by car, bike, bus, MAX depending on time of day, trip destination, etc. Car trips may be over the Fremont Bridge or even the Marquam, but are often via the Broadway, Steel or Hawthorne Bridges. But the point is that I have lots of options and chose the one best suited to my purposes. Travelers across the Columbia have very limited options…they must use a freeway bridge, whether they drive, take transit or even bike.

    As the Task Force neared the end of its work, staff reported that the “8-2” option…a new eight lane freeway bridge with a new two lane arterial bridge…performed very well. At that point I made a motion, seconded by then Portland Mayor Katz, to include in the final TF recommendations for further study a “6-2-2” option…keeping the existing bridges and adding two 2-lane arterial bridges, one adjacent to the current bridges and the other at some point within the heavy rail bridge alignment. This motion “failed” on a tie, 10-10 vote. Interestingly enough some “yes” votes came from Washington side representatives, while three “No” votes were cast by those on the Oregon side…Port of Portland, ODOT and sadly, Metro.

    I was assured at the time that the “6-2-2” option would be included in any DEIS. Clearly the largely consensus based process of the Task Force had broken down and the Facilitator has simply ruled “tie means exclusion, rather than inclusion.” So in the end the “6-2-2” was sort of recommended, I voted “No” on the final recommendations and the powers that be did not invite me back to the expanded Columbia River Crossing effort…for which I am grateful.

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  • enginerd February 5, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Lenny, thanks for your participation in the Trade Partnership and your current perspective.

    I see the CRC partner agencies (and their consultants) following a model of “Let’s plan for getting money,” rather than planning a true solution and then finding the funds. Oregon is woefully behind in funding transportation improvements (and maintenance of the existing system) for all modes. Washington is doing better, and, I believe, are paying the lions’ share of the current CRC planning process. Both states, though, want (and NEED) the Feds to fund a big chunk of any new crossing. So…they need to make the situation look as dire as possible when it comes to bi-state/federal transportation issues. A local bridge, or something like the 6-2-2 that came out of the Trade Partnership, while logical and probably less impacting, is likely not considered “fundable,” so the CRC team finds a way to drop those alternatives based on their narrowly construed purpose and need statement.

    One other issue that federal highway $ can’t be used to fund rail improvements on completely private systems (e.g. BNSF and UPRR), even if those improvements can be shown to help the highway system. Bummer.

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  • Scott Mizee February 6, 2007 at 3:30 am

    I think brad’s comment

    has some merit. Has this idea been discussed?

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  • [...] have mixed emotions. Since that night in February 2007 when I came back from a neighborhood meeting disgusted by the PR show I had heard about a “bridge project,” I’ve posted 75 stories about the CRC. I always suspected it would die, but CRC backers [...]

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